4. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets had a rough entry into the National Hockey League. They were founded as an expansion team in 2000. They waited 9 years for their first playoff berth, and lost in 4 games to the Detroit Red Wings in 2009. But this spring, they got back to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history and managed to finally win their first NHL playoff games. They put up a promising fight against the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one in a 4-2 loss.
Much promise is coming out of Columbus after the exciting post-season performance they laid out on the ice. There is more reason now than ever before for Columbus dwellers to be hockey fans.
They were the NHL’s biggest hitters last season, tied with the Los Angeles Kings at 2609 total hits. That style of play carried over into the post-season, where they upped their numbers to an average of 51 hits per game. They played an uptempo game against Pittsburgh and gave them a run for their money.
This is a well-coached team. Todd Richards might not have made it as a player in the NHL, but he is making is mark behind the bench right now. He was a second-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1985 NHL draft, but ended up playing only 19 games (regular and post-season) for the Hartford Whalers. He failed to score a goal. However, he is not failing to help Jackets’ GM Jarmo Kekalainen reach his goals for the team.
With stars like Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Ryan Johansen and defenseman Jack Johnson, the Blue Jackets will be playing an exciting brand of hockey going forward. They figured out a way to move on from the Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev era, and are now marching forward with strong pieces in play. They also recently acquired Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers. Lastly, they are taking the time to grow the plethora of young talent they have through their system.
Columbus was hockey-crazed during the Jackets’ brief run, and will be waiting with bated breath for the next NHL season to start.